WITH Guy Fawkes night approaching, animal conservationists have issued a plea which could save thousands of hedgehogs from being incinerated: please don't prepare your bonfires too early.
At this time of the year, hedgehogs are looking round for some cosy spot in which to hibernate. A bonfire built days or even weeks before November 5th seems ideal - with often fatal consequences.
The hedgehog, which is a great asset to any garden because its diet includes slugs and snails, is already at risk from many man-made hazards: road traffic, garden and farm tools like strimmers, even cattle grids, which they can fall into but cannot climb out of unless the owners has built a special hedgehog stairway in one corner.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is appealing for all bonfire organisers to store collected material away from the site of the actual fire and move it a day or so before November 5, inspecting the material for sleeping Prickles as they do so.
When this is not possible in extra-large bonfires being built for public events, they ask organisers to lay chicken wire around the bottom of the pile.